Introduction: Patti and I and our two daughters (ages 15 and 11) sailed on Infinity Sunday, April 4, 2004. We had a wonderful week on Infinity. This was our fifth cruise, and our third on Celebrity ships. The few negative comments I have are tiny in comparison with our overall high satisfaction with the experience. We would recommend the line and the ship without hesitation.
Few lines: One of the many positives about Celebrity and Infinity is the almost total lack of lines on board, and in getting on and off the ship at ports. Iâ€™ve heard from friends and family who have been on other companiesâ€™ cruises that the linesâ€”at breakfast, into the shows, getting off the shipâ€”were constant. Things move so smoothly on Infinity it is hard to believe that 2,000 guests are on board.
Dining: Another huge positive is the ability to eat by ourselves in the dining room. The four of us had a table for four. On other cruise lines, we have had to sit at much larger tables, and while I can generate cordiality for a while, a weekâ€™s worth with strangers is taxing.
Our favorite place to eat was the Aqua Spa CafÃ© for lunch, where the food is particularly lean and fresh, and is appealingly presented. Not many guests discovered this buffet-style cafÃ©. It is worth searching out.
I am not a gourmet but was generally impressed with the meals served at dinner in the main dining room. I had only one dishâ€”a prime ribâ€”that I thought wasnâ€™t up to par (too much chewing, too little flavor) and I suspect it was a fluke. Patti had prime rib that same night, and enjoyed it. Some of the dishesâ€”a spicy pasta comes to mindâ€”were exceptional. We noticed a marked improvement in the salads on Infinity over the salads a year ago on Galaxy. The ship serves 7,000 meals each day.
My family has become accustomed to Seattle restaurants, where the waiter typically comes to the table, and announces, â€œHi, guys. My name is Trevor, and Iâ€™m going to art school during the day. Whatâ€™ll it be tonight?â€ The Infinityâ€™s dining room is the opposite. It has layers of formal, professional help. Each evening our table was served by the assistant maitre dâ€™, the head waiter, the assistant waiter, the sommelier, the bartender, and the busboy. The service was exceptional, but I was over-waitered.
Patti and I had dinner one evening in the S.S. United States, the restaurant on Infinity that charges an extra $30 per person. The remarkably attractive room resembles a New York restaurant in the 1940s. This was a quiet romantic evening, with outstanding food and service, and was well worth the surcharge.
Pop card: At $5 per day, the soda card isnâ€™t as big a bargain as it seems. It works only for pop from the bar fountains (no cans). The glasses are small, and are first filled with ice, so that each time you request a Coke, you get perhaps five ounces. I drink five ounces of Diet Coke in ten seconds, so then I would have to go back to the bar, and often wait a minute or two for a refill. I felt I was on a treadmill: couple swallows, back to the bar, couple swallows, back to the bar. Still, because I drink Diet Coke all day, I saved money when compared with spending $2.00 per can of Diet Coke. But I donâ€™t like the meager way the soda is dispensedâ€”small glass filled with ice--when using the card. I felt as if a bookkeeper was counting the molecules.
Children and teensâ€™ clubs: Our daughters usually disappeared after dinner to join their new friends at the children and teenâ€™s clubs. The younger children were well supervised, and counselors were inventive in entertaining the kids. Our older daughter reports the counselors for the teens were a hands-off group who should have displayed more energy and who seemed to be on the ship for the ride.
Photographers: Regrettably our family has had fewer formal photographs over the recent years, but the ship offered the chance to catch up. The photographers and backdrops are good, and the prices for the photos are reasonable. Guests buy only the photos they like. We purchased several, and will frame them or put them into albums. One of the few lines on board is for the formal photos, which are usually taken just before or after dinner. The photographers are careful, and are aiming to please often large family groups with a number of poses, so the lines here (ten minutes, give or take) are understandable.
Exercise equipment: The exercise room is well-equipped. I worked out every day, and there was never a line for the step-machines or treadmills or stationary bikes. During the entire week I only saw one machine out-of-order. The work-out room has a view of the sea forward through large windows, and the place is light and airy, and is an inviting place to exercise.
The running track is a third of a kilometer long, and is a padded running surface that overlooks the pool, a deck above the pool. Sun bathers line the track. During one of my runs, a willowy young woman who, judging from her appearance, had just been on the cover of Swedish Models magazine, removed her wrap to lie down on a recliner chair, not that I noticed. The next time aroundâ€”this was mile four, and I was sounding like a respirator and sweating amply, I noticed that this striking young woman was covered with tattoos. Injected into her skin across her back was a meaningless blue pattern resembling a lattice fence. On her arm was either Tinkerbell or a boarâ€™s head, the ink had begun to run and I couldnâ€™t tell. Every time I circled the track, I spotted another tattoo. Around her ankle was a red and yellow psychedelic nightmare. On her right biceps was a leering Billy Goat Gruff. On her left shoulder was a blue-black blob so artless that it mightâ€™ve been done in prison. That this statuesque blonde would make her skin resemble an eighth graderâ€™s Peechee folder was a great puzzle, and before I knew it I had run six miles, so the experience wasnâ€™t a total loss.
Random comments: Infinityâ€™s hallways have elevator music pumped into them from ceiling speakers, touchy-feely treacle that made my teeth ache. Thereâ€™s no need to have this music in the hallways at all, much less twenty-four hours a day.
The shipâ€™s 75-cents per minute connection charge to the Internet is simply gouging. We used Soapyâ€™s Internet cafes in ports, which charged $10 for 100 minutes. Iâ€™d never before been in an Internet cafÃ© but Soapyâ€™s was easy to use, and the staff at both Soapyâ€™s (Charlotte Amalie and San Juan: just a block or two from the docks) was friendly and helpful.
Patti asked for an extra deck chair, and it took three days to arrive. Otherwise, our room attendantâ€™s serviceâ€”cleaning and restocking the roomâ€”was excellent. We ordered one breakfast delivered to our room, and it was on time and in perfect order.
The engines are surprisingly quiet. The ship does not vibrate detectably. We had unusually calm seas during the entire week, and I never heard of anyone becoming sea sick, and I only saw one behind-the-ear patch.
The TVs in the rooms provide only one news channel, the CNN World channel. I have little interest in the tulip shortage at the flower market in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. I donâ€™t know why Fox or the regular CNN were not available.
The TV also provides images from the shipâ€™s bow video camera, which also displays current latitude and longitude, which you can see changing as the ship moves, which is oddly fascinating.
Each noon the ship prints a six-page newspaper taken from wire services. It is available on the third deck near the guest relations desk. I looked forward every day to this little newspaper. The Seattle Mariners are hapless even when Iâ€™m at sea.
We saw the Broadway Review in the Infinityâ€™s theater one evening. Featuring songs and dances from West Side Story, Les Miserables, Grease, Phantom of the Opera, and others, the production had many costume changes, lively dancing, and solid singing. My off-key humming earned an elbow in the ribs from our oldest daughter, a musical theater fan.
The ports of call:
Caso de Campo, the Dominican Republic:
We took the shuttle to Altos de Chevon, then to La Marina. Altos de Chevon is a replica-town, made of stone to resemble an old European village, with a number of shops and restaurants. Other than spectacular view of the Chevon River, the place was uninteresting. Patti liked it more than I did, enjoying the architecture and the exotic tropical plants.
A warning: Americans are not accustomed to short-steps, that is, a step up or a step down that is only an inch or two, or four. American building codes prescribe a certain riser height, and our muscle memory is accustomed to this height. Altos de Chevon is filled with short steps and rough stone that seems to grab the shoe. I nearly fell twice.
La Marina is a refuge for the wealthy, and is filled with expensive cars and even more expensive yachts. The buildings are new, and are an attempt to recreate an old town feel. The place is pleasant but of little interest.
The shops and restaurants in Altos de Chevon and La Marina are unused to American money. The clerks use calculators to convert the currency, a lengthy process involving fistfuls of DR bills, and often have little or no American change. I could not buy a Coke (natch) at Altos de Chevon because I only had a ten dollar bill and the little store had no American change. So take lots one dollar bills.
Altos de Chevon and La Marina are entirely artificial constructs, and do not offer a glimpse of the Dominican Republic. Iâ€™m surprised this stop is on the itinerary.
San Juan, Puerto Rico:
We visited El Moro, the fortress overlooking the harbor. This is a fascinating place for history fans or anyone who enjoys Patrick Oâ€™Brian or C.F Forester. Manning this fort was a serious and deadly business. Every angle was designed to aid in killing the enemy and saving the defenders. The Dutch tried for months to take it, and failed (yes, the Dutch actually engaged in a battle once), and so did Sir Francis Drake, who also failed.
Old Town, with its narrow streets and fun shops and restaurants, is also well worth visiting. The lovely buildings are unlike anything in the United States, save maybe the French Quarter in New Orleans.
That dayâ€™s Wall Street Journal is available in San Juan. I had begun to tremble for lack of it.
This is our fourth visit to San Juan, and it is an undervalued destination. We hugely enjoy the city.
From our youngest daughter: I was cranky at San Juan â€˜cause I scraped my TOE!!!! Fatherâ€™s added comment: We heard about this woundâ€”visible only through an electron microscopeâ€”for the ensuing five days. Louis XVI complained less.
We took a taxi to Red Hook, where we had chartered in advance the 40-foot sloop Winifred for the day. The owner-skipper Sharon and her assistant Tommy sailed us over to a beach on St. John, where we snorkeled, seeing sea turtles, a huge school of glittering silversides, and many other colorful fish. Sharon and Tommy were attentive, friendly, and interesting. Patti and the girls and I sat in the sun at Caneel Bay, on the white-sand beach under the swaying palm trees, and I began to understand why Fletcher Christian never came back. We were thrilled by the day.
Weâ€™ve visited St. Thomas three times now. Many cruise passengers limit themselves to shopping in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, walking to a tourist mall near the pier. While this might be passable for a while, the shops near the dock are not so exotic or interesting as to command much time, and our experience is that finding some excursion on St. Thomas is the best way to spend the day.
Never was Infinity more appreciated than when Patti and I looked down from our roomâ€™s deck to see the excursion boat Booze â€˜N Cruise sail by in the Nassau harbor, jammed with semi-naked people trying to do the limbo to Cat Scratch Fever without spilling their rum punch.
From the pier, we took a short cab ride over the bridge to Paradise Island, to a public beach near the Sheraton Hotel. The beach was a little crowded, though nothing like the old photos of Coney Island. The sand and water were perfect. A large area is roped off for swimming and playing in the surf, keeping the rental banana boats and jet skis well away. Our eleven-year-old had her hair braided and beaded on the beach, and the lady did an excellent job. She was the only beach vendor we saw. A small Diet Coke at the Sheraton beach bar was $2.75, so I drank it during cardiac arrest.
On our way back to the ship, near the gate to the docks, I saw two local fellows try to inveigle a male teen headed back to the ship into some deal. I overheard the teen say, â€œBut I donâ€™t have any money,â€ to which one of the fellows said with an accent and a knowing smile, â€œWe donâ€™t want money.â€ I didnâ€™t pause long enough to gather the gist of the proposal, but that teen was about to be suckered and maybe hurt. So there might be trouble waiting for impressionable (i.e. stupid) teenagers visiting Nassau and out of sight of their parents.
We had a wonderful week, and have already booked a Celebrity cruise for next yearâ€™s spring break â€“Jim. Seattle.
4/1/05 Summit 10-day
[This message was edited by SeaGal on 04-23-04 at 04:48 PM.]